Chris Kramer inherits the leadership role from Carl Landry and David Teague, two All-Big Ten performers who graduated. But coach Matt Painter likes Kramer and will have no trouble allowing him to run the show.
Chris Kramer inherits the leadership role on a very young but talented team.
Keaton Grant worked his way into the lineup and wound up starting 21 games last season, but he'll have to improve his shooting (36.7 percent). E'Twaun Moore should start from Day One and will be expected to pick up much of the scoring load along with Kramer.
None of the returnees hit even 20 3-pointers last season, so this is not a team that will shoot opponents out of the gym. Moore is the highest-rated player (No. 35 overall) in a dynamic recruiting class. He's a true combo guard with a solid all-around game.
Gordon Watt is the only returning frontcourt player with significant playing experience, and he really struggled from January on (5.5 ppg). Scott Martin will be counted on to score. He's a 6-8 wing guy who can shoot from the perimeter.
Moore, Martin and Robbie Hummel all played AAU ball together and have a good feel for each other. Hummel is a coach's dream, a player who simply knows the game. He likes to play defense, and he makes sound basketball decisions.
JaJuan Johnson is 6-10 but only around 200 pounds. However, Rivals.com analysts believe he has a significant upside. He's capable of having a major impact defensively right from the opening tip, but he'll need to improve offensively. Still, Rivals.com ranked him the No. 41 overall prospect in the country.
Things will be a lot different this year. Painter rode Landry the past two seasons, which meant the Boilermakers played a deliberate, half-court style of offense. The goal on most possessions was to get the ball to Landry on the block.
Without a real low-post scoring threat this season, expect to see Purdue play more up-tempo. They have more ball-handlers than they've had the past couple of years, and Painter probably will try to spread the floor more and let them freelance. They'll take shots when available.
The Boilermakers play mostly man to man, and they'll pick up 94 feet. They want to apply the pressure as much as they can. They did a decent job with it last year (second in the Big Ten in steals and third in turnover margin).
Despite the key losses, they actually might have more depth and more speed this season. Kramer is one of the best perimeter defenders in the Big Ten, and Hummel and Johnson eventually will be top-notch defenders, too. Look for the Boilermakers to go at least nine deep and keep up the pressure.
Outlook with postseason forecast
Painter is optimistic. He loves the four freshmen. Landry and Teague are huge losses, but this is a fresh start for the Boilermakers. It's nice to have some pieces with experience to mix with the youthful makeover. Things would have to go almost perfectly to believe this is an NCAA team, but it's possible. The Big Ten isn't especially strong this season after Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State, so Purdue could surprise. We'll say NCAA bubble, but more likely NIT this season. But when this freshman class has a season under its belt, Purdue will be a tough team to beat.
Shoes to Fill
F Carl Landry (18.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), G David Teague (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Must Step Up
Everyone. You don't make up for the losses of players like Landry and Teague without each player doing his part.
You can't pick just one. This is the best recruiting class in recent memory at Purdue, ranked seventh in the nation by Rivals.com. All four of the prospects are ranked among the top 75 players in the class. Sure, there are times when they'll struggle, but there also will be times when they'll put smiles on the faces of every Boilermakers fan - and Painter.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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